Published in 425Business
By Bryan Johnston
Major league baseball teams across the country have a proven secret weapon to increase ticket sales and their bottom line. The weapon of choice is approximately 8 inches tall and is prone to eagerly nod its agreement. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the bobblehead.
Bobbleheads have become synonymous with baseball and a Woodinville company may very well be responsible for that. BDA, a branded merchandise agency, has become the go-to creator and supplier of the ballpark giveaways. They produce six million bobbleheads annually. Toys, collectibles, tchotchkes, whatever you want to call them, make no mistake, they are big business.
"Bobbleheads can produce an attendance jolt of 15-30 percent," said Jay Deutsch, co-founder of BDA. And numbers like that are one reason why BDA has seen such growth. They are now a preferred partner for the MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS, and PGA. As teenagers, in 1984, Deutsch and a friend, Eric Bensussen, sold their first promotional product—a Seattle Seahawks sweatshirt. BDA was the eventual result. Since that time, they've scaled to 75 locations across the globe.
But let's get back to those bobblehead numbers, because they are nothing short of eye-opening. Understandably, more merchandise and concessions are sold when fans come through the gate well before game time. When people are given a sense of urgency — "First 10,000 fans!" — they arrive early.
"Bobbleheads get people excited. We've seen teams like the Cubs receive a 71 percent increase in ticket scans more than an hour before first pitch on promotional giveaway days," Deutsch said. "When people are in the stadium early, it increases spending on concessions and team merchandise." It's that kind of ROI that has teams knocking on BDA's doors on a regular basis.
But bobbleheads aren't all that BDA is about. They are in the wide-world of branded merchandise and that covers a lot of ground. In recent years they have done everything from rebate prizes for Kellogg's cereal to marketing campaigns for the Ghostbusters movie reboot. If there can be a merchandise tie-in BDA most likely has a solution.
"It's much more than a fun item," said Deutsch. "Branded merchandise in the hands of a potential customer truly improves product recall. Roughly eight in 10 people admit to looking up the brand after receiving branded merchandise. And 83 percent said they are more likely to do business with brands from which they've received branded merchandise than with brands they have not." And evidently branded merchandise has staying power. The majority of consumers keep branded merchandise between one and five years.
BDA also uses their merch to create new partnerships. For example, who would have thought major league baseball teams would be able to team up with the Marvel universe? BDA played matchmaker.
"We Marvel-ized experiences, players, and merchandise to help teams sell tickets, create VIP experiences and drive new sponsor integrations," Deutsch said. "We're the only partner uniquely positioned across both sports and entertainment to be able to create one-of-a-kind bobbleheads like Mets' player Noah Syndergaard as Thor to drive sports and superhero enthusiasts — especially kids — to the ballpark."
BDA is completely hands on when it comes to the bobblehead creation process. It begins with the teams choosing an athlete in a specific pose or memorable moment. From flat art, sculpting, molding, painting, packaging, shipping and final fulfillment, every step is met by BDA. Each bobblehead, even orders with tens of thousands of bobbleheads, is hand-painted by the company's artists.
Everyone loves a freebie, and BDA has taken that most basic of human desires and run with it to their, and dozens of major league franchises, great good fortune. But can this bobblehead fever continue? Years from now, will fans still want another version of their favorite player with a spring-loaded noggin? I look across the landscape and see a lot of baseball executives nodding yes.
Original story published in 425Business.